Each week the mystery shopper seeks advice from independent advisers in the UK. The aim is to find out whether advisers are delivering the goods when it comes to the all-important initial telephone contact between client and adviser. It is only intended to evaluate this first interview, and it is understood that further meetings would be necessary before final decisions could be made. The purpose is not to expose poor selling practices, but to show constructively any weaknesses in the advice process.
This week, the mystery shopper visits Southampton in Hampshire. Shopper is a 37-year old IT contractor, who is registered as self-employed through her limited company. She has savings of around £10,000 and is trying to find out what her mortgage options are, as she has read a lot about the challenges that self-employed individuals often experience when trying to get a mortgage.
Adviser: Solent Financial Services (Independent)
Address: 22 Shore Road, Warsash, Southampton, Hampshire, SO31 9FU
Speed of response: 12.33pm. One ring and put through to adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: Helpful. 5/5
Relevant Qualifications: DipFS. 5/5
Payment method: Commission from lender. 4/5
Guidance given: The adviser said most lenders want to see six months left on a contract with little to no employment gaps. He said that most lenders were willing to lend as long as the shopper could show that employment contracts were being continuously renewed. 4/5
Knowledge: The adviser appeared to be knowledgeable but some of the information he gave was a bit vague. 4/5
Web: www.solentfs.co.uk 5/5
Verdict: The shopper felt the adviser was knowledgeable but did not give her the detailed information she would have liked.
Adviser: Choice Financial Solutions (Independent)
Address: 17-18 The Avenue, Southampton, Hampshire, SO17 1XF
Speed of response: 12.55pm. One ring and put through to adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: Polite and helpful. 5/5
Relevant Qualifications: CeMap. 5/5
Payment method: A commission from lender and the adviser may take fee if amount borrowed is less than £150,000. 4/5
Guidance given: Adviser said shopper was in a good place as an IT contractor, because lenders tend to look favourably on them when it comes to their requirements. Where another type of contractor would be required to produce a minimum of two years' accounts, but for an IT contractor some lenders will use the shopper’s day rate to work out an annual salary. 5/5
Knowledge: The adviser was very knowledgeable and was happy to go into detail with the shopper. He also explained about the different types of agents or advisers that she could speak to about mortgages; going direct with the lender, speaking to tied agents or going to a completely independent adviser. 5/5
Verdict: Shopper’s Choice. The shopper was really impressed with the adviser’s wealth of knowledge, particularly in how it relates to IT industry contractors.
Adviser: Radcliffe and Company (independent)
Address: Meridians House, 7 Ocean Way, Southampton SO14 3TJ
Speed of response: 1.05pm. One ring; shopper spoke to a member of staff who then put her through to the adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: Very chatty and friendly. 5/5
Relevant Qualifications: DipFS. 5/5
Payment method: Provider pays commission and depending on the mortgage size there might be a fee. 4/5
Guidance given: Adviser said some lenders can be picky because they want the mortgage applicant to show they have been with their employer for a minimum of 12 months, but an application with no gaps in employment will stand a better chance of getting a good deal. He also said lenders would calculate a potential borrower's annual salary/dividends – using a multiple of four-times one's yearly income – to see if they could met the affordability criteria. 4/5